Climber Spotlight: Maggie Crawford

Maggie Crawford says that her favorite sport is

whatever’s good … trail running, surfing, skiing, kayaking, mountain climbing, bouldering, clipping bolts, mountain biking, and frolicking on the beach with my puppy are all my favorite sports.

Her adventurous approach to life, endless stoke, and passionate willingness to get after it despite her recent diabetes diagnosis are incredibly inspiring. We’re thrilled to share her story in this week’s Climber Spotlight.


Maggie Crawford

I was a climber before I had diabetes. Climbing threw me into scary places, and taught me that staying positive and calm is integral to survival. I am thankful for the life perspective that climbing gave me, and that climbing came before diabetes in my life.

Leading up warpaint in Cochise Stronghold. Amazing 10c route. #climbing #dirtbarbieadventures #cochise #nols A photo posted by Maggie Crawford (@magstur) on

 

Before I was a climber, I was a triathlete, a runner, a biker, a swimmer, a skier. All sports where I could navigate around obstacles, and the objective was to be fast and smooth. Climbing was the opposite. The coolest line is often the one that includes the most obstacles, and being fast is rarely a goal. Climbing was the first thing that ever really knocked me on my ass.

Living out of a van in New Zealand, pinching pennies to buy cans of beans, I gave in to letting my life revolve around climbing rocks. And I gave in to the fact that I was maybe actually kind of bad at something. Thinking I was bad at climbing instigated me to dedicate a good three years to climbing, to the point where I was skilled at bouldering, sport climbing, trad climbing, and alpine mountaineering. I had a couple of speed records in the making, and people even paid me to take them rock climbing.

 

Related: A Look at Speed Climbing: An Interview with Hans Florine

A photo posted by Maggie Crawford (@magstur) on

 

Maggie’s blood sugar log.

Then I got diabetes. I thought at first that it would be no big deal. You just take some medicine and it’s all good. That thought lasted about a day, until the first time I ever had low blood sugar and was laying on the floor of my bedroom, drenched in cold sweat and sobbing out snotty tears. Maybe diabetes isn’t simple, I thought, maybe it requires some skill.

I quickly learned that managing my blood sugar required me to have a deep understanding of every single thing that goes on in my body. I need to know how much I slept last night, how well I slept last night, if I am stressed out, if I am subconsciously stressed out and don’t want to admit it, if I went running this morning, how hard I actually ran, if I went climbing last night and if it was more of an endurance climbing session or if it entailed big moves and lots of bicep work, everything I ate yesterday, how much fat I ate after 9pm last night, how many carbohydrates I ate at breakfast today, how much medicine I took at 11pm last night, what my blood sugar was 2 hours after lunch yesterday and the day before.

You get the idea—you gotta pay attention. So I started paying attention.

Maggie pricking her finger in the middle of the night while traversing the Echo Peaks in Tuolumne, CA.

I spent a couple of months doing the exact same thing everyday.

I ate the same things at the same time everyday, and I ran and climbed the same amount at the same time everyday. I started to make patterns for myself. I wrote down everything I did, how much medicine I took every time I injected (5 or 6 times a day), and what my blood sugar was every time I pricked my finger to measure it.

I was happy when I found patterns that helped me manage my blood sugar, and I celebrated the times when I felt comfortable in knowing how much medicine to inject at a given meal.

Real time summit shot on Emerson! I’ve been looking at this baby years!!!!! Feeling humbled and grateful <3 A photo posted by Maggie Crawford (@magstur) on

 

But I am a climber. I don’t live for repetition; I thrive on adventure and risk. After a couple months of repeated activities and meals, I set myself back into the mountains. I started climbing again. Climbing a lot. Climbing mostly big ass mountains where nobody would ever dare tread without a complete set of hexes and the intention to use all of them. I treated diabetes as an extra little obstacle in the process of mountain climbing.

I learned how to prick my finger and inject myself with medicine while hanging in my harness high up on a wall. I learned how to accept that my blood sugar might be out of control sometimes—like the day it wouldn’t dip below 300 and I was traversing Matthes Crest with no water.

 

Related: A Hidden Yosemite Climbing Gem: The Matthes Crest Traverse

 

I learned that my body is resilient and that paying attention to everything going on in my body makes me stronger than most other people. I learned how to meet a partner I am psyched to climb with, and tell them that I have this thing called diabetes, and hope that they don’t think I am a liability to have with them in the mountains.

I learned that stoke is the most important part of doing anything, and that the little zipper pockets they put on pants are perfect for storing chili mangoes and chocolate. And because I am a climber, and obstacles excite me, I enjoyed every second of it.

 

A photo posted by Maggie Crawford (@magstur) on

 

Granted, there are times when I get pissed at my diabetes.

Like the time my blood sugar kept going low on an approach, and I shed my backpack and started throwing rocks as hard as I could at a big boulder in the forest. I yelled and I screamed and I bawled my eyes out. And then I was ready to go. Pissed off and ready to climb. That’s how climbing works though, right? You will never master it because it is full of new challenges; it requires an evolving skillset. Just like diabetes.

Climbing taught me to be okay with little failures and to not be overwhelmed by a constant trickle of challenges. Climbing taught me that when shit turns south, it is best to take a deep breath and look at the beautiful world around me before returning to the tricky task at hand. And most important to my diabetes, climbing taught me how to be patient with myself.


To get to know more about Maggie, check out her blog.

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